Campbell River property and business owners almost saw their 2019 tax bills come in a little lower than expected after the City of Campbell River saw a higher than anticipated revenue come in this week.
A report from the city’s finance department shows the Non-Market Change (new construction) tax revenue that was anticipated during council’s budget deliberations in December to add around $450,000 to the city’s budget for the year actually came in around $640,000 after BC Assessment finalized its numbers.
Coun. Claire Moglove proposed that council use that money to lower the previously-approved 2.55 per cent tax increase for the people of Campbell River – and got some support for that motion from two fellow councilors – but after a 4-3 vote in council chambers on Monday, the city will use the extra money instead.
“There basically are two options for this additional $190,000,” Moglove said. “Either it is used to lower the tax increase or it’s going to end up in surplus. I think that had council known that the non-market change would be so significantly higher than the $450,000 (budgeted), council would either have increased the base budget or had a lower tax increase. Under the circumstances, it would behoove the city to lower the tax rate. I don’t think we should be increasing our surplus unnecessarily.”
Coun. Charlie Cornfield said he would like to see a more thorough discussion about their options than could happen that night.
Coun. Kermit Dahl agreed, saying while he’s “a business guy and I hate taxes,” he agreed with Cornfield that they needed more time to consider their options, “and have some discussion around it before we make any kind of decision, because this could be an opportunity for us to do some of the things we hadn’t thought of doing.”
Coun. Colleen Evans and Coun. Michele Babchuk also wanted to take some time to look for more options than just lowering the tax rate or putting the money in surplus, with Evans saying saying she’s pretty sure they would have spent that money during budget deliberations if they knew it was coming.
“The needs in this community exceeded the dollars that we had available,” Evans said. “I think we did a very good job of looking at all funding opportunities deciding where to place our priorities, but there were a number of items below the line that we wanted to consider but didn’t have the funding available to do so.”
But during the discussions, council was informed by staff that there was likely not enough time for that, as tax bills need to go out. The city would need two public meetings to amend its taxation bylaw, and that bylaw needs to be in place by May 15.
Mayor Andy Adams said his preference would to see the money used to lower the tax increase.
“When we went through financial planning deliberations we had very in-depth, wholesome discussions as to what we would consider, where we would shuffle money and what we would approve and made those decisions based on what money we thought was available at that time,” Adams said. “Those decisions were made and set and staff were given the mandate to move forward with those for 2019. The fact that we, thanks to increased growth, come up with a surplus amount, I think it’s incumbent upon us to return the majority of that to the taxpayer.”
In the end, Coun. Dahl, Evans, Babchuk and Cornfield opposed Moglove’s motion to lower this year’s tax rate increase, with Coun. Ron Kerr and the mayor voting in favour, so it was defeated.
Instead, it was decided that the additional money would go into the council contingency fund for discretionary spending on requests that come before council throughout the year.
Council will also, prior to next year’s financial planning deliberations, come up with a policy on how to deal with any differences between non-market change dollars projected during the December planning sessions and the ones that actually come in when the assessments are completed in April.